Impact of the pandemic on local gyms and fitness studios

A number of health and fitness establishments have seen an upswing in memberships since COVID-19 restrictions were lifted and fitness centers reopened, but the industry is still trying to bounce back from the pandemic.

A variety of fitness establishments in Seymour are back up and running.

Drew Carpenter, general manager at Anytime Fitness, said gyms and fitness centers were in the first wave of businesses to reopen after quarantines due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“We had to lay our team off, including myself, and we were out until the state said health spots are a good place to be, and they were going to start letting people back into health clubs,” Carpenter said. “That was a good thing because the nation understood health was important, and so they allowed health clubs to be one of the first to reopen.”

He said when things did open back up, the drop in attendance was pretty high at first, as some people were nervous and had concerns.

“Our livelihood is helping people, and overall as a nation, our mindset was, ‘Hey, I want to get healthy,’ whether at home or in the gym, and either way was good, and we were just happy people were doing it,” he said.

Coming back into things, Carpenter said they wore masks and highly encouraged handwashing and sanitizer at their facility and had several air ionizers. They would remind people to use hand sanitizer before using the equipment and wipe it down after, just reinforcing what they were already doing.

“I think as a whole, COVID helped people be more health aware than ever, but we’ve seen some great people pass away because they were unhealthy and they were the first to be attacked,” Carpenter said. “Being healthy is the most important thing, and people always knew it. The pandemic just helped revive that way of thinking.”

He said their biggest competition is all of the fast food restaurants with unhealthy food that’s convenient and easy. Exercise is not easy, but it’s worth it, and so is cooking healthy.

Assistant general manager Hannah Dotts said they encourage people to make a long-term commitment because getting healthy is a lifestyle change and it’s about a commitment to bettering yourself.

Dotts said to help get people motivated, their client/member six-week challenge will be coming up in March.

Information about Anytime Fitness can be found on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok or or by calling 812-680-4639.

Desiree Hall, head coach at CrossFit Seymour, said the facility had to close its doors March 16, 2020, and COVID took them all by surprise.

“We definitely were hoping that it wouldn’t come to that but realized it was something greater and out of our control,” she said.

They had to scramble and decide what was going to happen next, so they told their athletes to expect the unexpected, kind of like what they do in CrossFit.

“We sent out workouts for our athletes to do at home and gave them a members page on Facebook, challenging everybody to share what they were doing for exercise to keep us together, and then we set up some virtual Zoom classes.” Hall said. “Looking back, it was fun because people were set up in their garages, basements and living rooms with their family and their dog. After we worked out, we’d kind of hang out on Zoom to chat and see how everyone was doing.”

CrossFit reopened May 22, 2020, when there were still a lot of guidelines to follow and extra precautions to be taken. The athletes were willing to do what they needed to do to get back in the gym because they loved it so much, Hall said.

“I don’t know if it’s a mixture of us doing what we need to do or also people realizing that being healthy is way more important and valuable than they ever thought it was going to be coming through that pandemic,” she said. “But we have probably gained 30% more attendance in athletes since the pandemic.”

Hall said it was very scary in the beginning because they’re a small business, so it was up to them to make sure the doors stayed open.

“Our community definitely stood behind us and said, ‘Hey, we’re here and we’re not going anywhere and will continue to keep paying our memberships even though we’re doing at-home workouts,’” she said. “We didn’t lose a single member the entire time, but we know other CrossFit gyms that were not as lucky as we were and had to end up closing down, so we couldn’t have done it without our athletes and members.”

Coming back in person was a little bit different because of the masks and different mandates, and CrossFit Seymour saw a bit of a drop-off in attendance, but it has seen those numbers come back up since people have been taking their health a little more seriously, Hall said. Their athletes range in age from teens to 92.

For information about CrossFit Seymour, call 812-271-1836, visit or find them on Facebook/Instagram @CrossfitSeymour.

Katrina Hardwick, owner of Body Rock Dance, Health and Fitness Studio, has been a fitness instructor since 2009 when she became Zumba certified, and she has had years of dance training.

“I loved the community and the vibe when you come to group fitness,” she said. “It’s kind of like there’s this accountability because you get to know each other and you rely on one another.”

Hardwick, who also is certified in kickboxing, senior function fitness and high-intensity interval training, was leading classes at Snap Fitness in Seymour when the pandemic started.

“Everything shut down, so I led virtual classes from my house for about two months and like the rest of the world learned to use Zoom,” she said. “I started doing more freelance choreography in addition to the fitness instruction for musicals and Dancing with the Stars, which kind of branched out into wedding choreography.”

Hardwick said she’s a single-income person and has a child, so she never thought she could have a dance and fitness studio of her own, which has always been the dream.

“In the spring of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and I unexpectedly lost my job at the hospital, so even health care workers weren’t safe,” she said. “It was like unexpectedly losing my job was almost like the push, it was the catalyst. It’s like, ‘What am I going to do now?’”

She said after thinking she needed to find a similar job but not being able to, she almost accepted a job in the Seymour school system in 2020, but it fell through. A month later, the building where her studio is became available.

“I opened the studio in May 2021, and it’s interesting because when we first started, we would wear masks until everyone got into their spaces and at the end put them back on and clean up,” Hardwick said. “Even though we had seen vaccinations and people were starting to feel a little more comfortable, there were still a lot of major events that hadn’t come back yet, so I think people were coming in for something to do, and so I didn’t see a drop in attendance.”

She said in the past year as more people have been getting COVID boosters, events have started up again and things are going back to normal, but she has noticed a massive drop in attendance.

“Over the holidays, we had to end up canceling some classes because there weren’t enough people, as some were gone to visit relatives because they were able to get out and travel again,” Hardwick said. “In 2023, I’ve seen some of the numbers start to come back up, but not as high as they once were.”

Last month, the fitness studio was seeing classes of about nine to 13, when in past years, the average class attendance for January and February was 15 to 25, so Harwick feels people are still finding that balance again since COVID started.

To buffer the drop in attendance, Hardwick has been renting out her studio for family gatherings and various events. The cast of Jackson County Community Theatre’s dinner theater production of “Xanadu,” of which Hardwick is a cast member, has been using the space to rehearse and practice choreography.

Seymour resident Nancy Fleming, 83, attends the Body Rock Lite class.

“I’ve exercised pretty much all my life, and there are a group of us who are retired teachers that were exercising together, and then COVID happened,” Fleming said. “We wanted to get started again, and when Katrina said she was going to have this class, we started coming here, and I like it because we do some stretching and work on balance and flexibility.”

There are a variety of classes Monday through Saturday, ranging from early morning to evening. Hardwick even leads a water aerobics class at Seymour High School on Wednesday nights.

A special line dancing workshop is scheduled for 7 to 9 p.m. Friday. Carla Willis-Crase, a renowned local dance instructor and choreographer, will be teaching the class. Spots are limited due to space, so those interested in the workshop should call or text 812-371-8281 to RSVP and pay.

For information about Body Rock Dance, Health and Fitness Studio, call 812-371-8281, email [email protected] or visit

A survey by UpSwell Marketing found that while 50% of respondents returned to the gym within nine months of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions being lifted, nearly a third (27.71%) still have not yet returned to the gym and 31.23% were working out less in 2022. Of those who have not yet returned to the gym, 26.9% stated they didn’t currently have plans to return.

Eric Goodstadt, chief executive officer at UpSwell, said many gym owners are still struggling to recover from the expenses brought on by the pandemic.

“On top of that, gyms face many new operating challenges within the fitness industry and more competition than before the pandemic,” Goodstadt said in a news release. “By understanding what would motivate customers to rejoin a gym and the deciding factors affecting those decisions, gyms will see a bigger surge in attendance and new memberships.”

The survey showed those who have not rejoined a gym are highly motivated by steep pricing promotions (31.58%), extra safety precautions and enhanced cleaning (11.11%). Offering child care, classes and vaccine or mask mandates were not as motivating. The biggest deciding factors those clients intend to look for in a new gym include convenience of location (60.65%), new member pricing (43.98%) and the type of equipment offered (39.81%).

The fitness survey was conducted in 2022 with a total of 617 respondents in the United States between the ages of 18 and 69, all of whom held a gym membership before the onset of COVID-19.